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Third of open ocean sharks face extinction

PARIS (AFP) — A third of the world's open water sharks -- including the great white and hammerhead -- face extinction, according to a major conservation survey released Thursday.
Species hunted on the high seas are particularly at risk, with more than half in danger of dying out, reported the Shark Specialist Group at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Collapsing shark populations have already severely disrupted at least two coastal marine ecosystems, and could trigger even more severe consequences in the high seas, marine biologists warned at the same time.
The main culprit is overfishing. Sharks are prized for their meat, and in Asia especially for their fins, a prestige food thought to convey health benefits.

Dolphin 'super pod' shifts north

Hundreds of dolphins more commonly found in warmer seas have been seen in the Moray Firth in Scotland while making a "massive migration" into the North Sea. The environmental charity Earthwatch Institute said more than 400 short-beaked common dolphins were sighted off the north east coast. It said the "super pod" was a sign of how climate change was pushing some wildlife further north. The dolphins' appearance in the firth was hugely significant. "Firstly, the sheer number of dolphins was astounding - there were common dolphin everywhere around us over a two-mile radius. Furthermore, this was only the second sighting in the past few years of such a 'super-pod' of this species in these waters. The first sighting in 10 years was recorded here in July 2007 when we were joined by more than 300 animals in the outer Moray Firth."

Large 2009 Gulf Of Mexico 'Dead Zone' Predicted

University of Michigan aquatic ecologist Donald Scavia and his colleagues say this year's Gulf of Mexico "dead zone" could be one of the largest on record, continuing a decades-long trend that threatens the health of a half-billion-dollar fishery.

The scientists' latest forecast, released June 18, calls for a Gulf dead zone of between 7,450 and 8,456 square miles—an area about the size of New Jersey.

"The growth of these dead zones is an ecological time bomb," said Scavia, a professor at the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment and director of the U-M Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute.
"Without determined local, regional and national efforts to control them, we are putting major fisheries at risk," said Scavia, who also produces annual dead-zone forecasts for the Chesapeake Bay.

Image: Mississippi dead zone in 2004. This year's Gulf of Mexico "dead zone" could be one of the largest on record, continuing a decades-long trend that threatens the health of a half-billion-dollar fishery. (Credit: Photo courtesy of NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio)

Uganda forests rapidly disappearing

KAMPALA (AFP) — Uganda has lost nearly a third of its forest cover since 1990 due to expanding farmlands, a rapidly growing human population and increased urbanisation, a government report said on Friday.

In 1990, the east African nation had more than five million hectares of forest cover but by 2005 only 3.5 million hectares (8.6 million acres) remained, the report, published by Ugandan's National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), said.

If deforestation continues at the present rate Uganda will have lost all its forested land by 2050, it warned.

Image: Patches of burnt grass are seen in a tree forest in the Ugandan north-eastern plains

California's Water Woes Threaten the Entire Country's Food Supply

Nearly a third of the country's food supply comes from California, but drought there may be a catastrophe for farmers -- and the rest of us.

California's agricultural sector grows approximately one-third of the nation's food supply and is nourished by diverted rivers and streams filled yearly by runoff from its prodigious Sierra Nevada snowpack, as well as groundwater pumping and other less-reliable methods. That snowpack -- which once sparked the first, but not the last, water war that helped transform a semi-arid Los Angeles into an unsustainable oasis less populous than only New York City -- is disappearing fast. Hence Chu's worrisome prediction.

To make matters worse, a crushing drought, now well into its third year, has made simply everything problematic. In California's central valley, home to a majority of the state's agricultural output, farmers are leaving hundreds of thousands of acres fallow, and the resultant economic depression is having a domino effect that could cost California $1 billion to start and is causing residents of a one-time food powerhouse to go hungry.

Mekong dolphins 'almost extinct'

Pollution in the Mekong river has pushed freshwater dolphins in Cambodia and Laos to the brink of extinction, the conservation group WWF has said.
Only 64 to 76 Irrawaddy dolphins remain in the Mekong, it says, and calls for a cross-border plan to help the dolphins.
Toxic levels of pesticides, mercury and other pollutants have been found in more than 50 calves that have died since 2003.
The Mekong flows from China through Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.
"These pollutants are widely distributed in the environment and so the source of this pollution may involve several countries through which the Mekong river flows," said WWF veterinary surgeon Verne Dove in a press statement.

New Strain of H1-N1 Virus Discovered: Deaths Mount in NYC

Skywatch Media News has learned that the H1N1 Swine Flu Virus, which has already been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, has developed a new strain of the virus in South America. The Adolfo Lutz Institute in Sao Paulo sounded the warning indicating that the virus is mutating much faster than was anticipated by medical experts. This new discovery is important in that the genetic variant of the Swine Flu, now has the potential to become a deadly viral strain similar to the Spanish Flu variant that killed many millions in 1918.
More worrisome for North America and the United States is the number of swine flu deaths and infections that continue to be reported across the country. Deaths have increased, especially in New York City, where yesterday alone 7 more deaths have been confirmed, bringing the total number to 23 in the city alone.
The Death of a nine year old boy has been reported in Florida, A 20 year old woman in San Diego County, California; A sixth death in Utah, Two more deaths bringing total to 8 in Texas. The total number of U.S. deaths since the virus was first reported in unclear, but the number given by the CDC on June 12, stood at 44 with nearly 18,000 infections. That number is likely to change dramatically when the CDC publishes their new report on June 19. The U.S. congress has approved nearly 8 billion to combat the flu virus
It is important to note that the mainstream media and cable news networks in the United States, in order to refrain from being labeled alarmists, have treating the Swine Flu Pandemic with kid gloves. This is troublesome, as the world should be informed, and rightfully so, considering recent developments with this virus, as it continues to spread across the globe.
In the U.K. the number of confirmed infections is the highest number in Europe, having increased dramatically, with a mother and her child being the latest mortality victims in Scotland.
Australia is reporting chaos with the Swine Flu Pandemic as the medical response has not been forthcoming in anticipation of the spread of the virus.
For the latest updates on the Swine Flu Pandemic including U.S. and World Statistics visit H1-N1 Flu Updates

Swine flu pandemic declared by World Health Organization

The World Health Organization this morning acknowledged what many health experts have been saying for weeks: The outbreak of novel H1N1 virus is now a pandemic.

In a letter sent to its member countries, the WHO said it is officially raising its infectious diseases alert to Phase 6, its highest level, in recognition of the fact that the virus is now undergoing communitywide transmission in Australia as well as in North America. Such spread in two distinct regions of the world is the primary criterion for raising the alert level.

The announcement marks the advent of the first global influenza epidemic in 41 years. The last one was the Honk Kong flu epidemic of 1968, which killed an estimated 1 million people worldwide.

So far, the H1N1 or swine flu pandemic this year has accounted for 27,737 laboratory-confirmed cases and 141 deaths, although health officials believe many times that number have been infected but have not been tested because their disease was mild.

Climate talks must tackle ocean acidification

PARIS (AFP) – The world's top scientific academies on Monday called on UN talks to include ocean acidification, a dangerous byproduct of carbon pollution, in a global treaty to tackle climate change.
"Ocean acidification is expected to cause massive corrosion of our coral reefs and dramatic changes in the makeup of the biodiversity of our oceans and to have significant implications for food production and the livelihoods of millions of people," 70 academies of science said in a joint statement.
Their appeal came at the start of a 12-day round of negotiations in Bonn under the banner of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The UNFCCC is tasked with steering 192 parties towards a deal in Copenhagen in December that will set down targets for curbing greenhouse-gas emissions by the middle of the century.
"Everybody knows that the increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leads to climate change," Martin Rees, president of Britain's Royal Society, said in a press release.
"But it has another environmental effect -- ocean acidification -- which hasn?t received much political attention," he said.
"Unless global CO2 emissions can be cut by at least 50 percent by 2050 and more thereafter, we could confront an underwater catastrophe, with irreversible changes in the makeup of our marine biodiversity.

Iraq rattled by snake plague

A plague of snakes has caused panic in Iraq's southern province of Nasiriyah, biting cattle and worrying residents as poisonous reptiles flee their dens in the country's water-deprived marshes. "We have been surprised in recent days by the UNPRECEDENTED NUMBER of snakes that have fled their habitat because of the dryness and heat. We saw some on roads, near houses and cowsheds. They have attacked cows and buffalo, and farmers have come to us looking for vaccines but we don't have any.'' Iraq's water reserves dipped to 11 billion cubic metres in May, compared with 40 billion cubic metres three years earlier, although rainfall this past winter was normal. Experts say Iraq faces agricultural disaster this summer if neighbouring Turkey continues to retain waters from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers which have nourished Iraqi agriculture for millennia. Iraq says the problem is the many dams Turkey has built over the past 30 years to irrigate its own southeast.

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